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Things to do in Sydney this weekend

Find all the best events in one place – it's your social saviour for fun things to do in Sydney this weekend

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A crowd gathered at Laneway festival, a young woman rides on someone's shoulder.
Photograph: Brayden Smith

It's the final weekend of January, and 2020 is well and truly in full swing. Summer is at its peak, so there are plenty of reasons to go alfresco, with amazing Lunar New Year events and outdoor cinemas taking place across the city. A trip to the beach or an amble along one of Sydney's beautiful walks are also ideal ways to take to the great outdoors, but whatever you're in the mood for, our carefully selected list of the best of Sydney culture will have something for you to look forward to this weekend. 

Meanwhile, Australia's bushfire crisis is far from over. And yet, in the face of such awful devastation, this national tragedy has also revealed many amazing acts of kindness. All over the country, artists, restauranteurs, comedians and musicians are coming together to make a difference, and you can play your part for the relief effort this weekend simply by attending one of the excellent fundraising events taking place in Sydney, or by eating at one of the many restaurants that have pledged donations.

Australia is burning. Do your part for the bushfire relief efforts by donating to the Red Cross and WIRES

Find the best things to do this weekend

1
Crowd on hill with trees at Laneway Festival
Photograph: Tim Da Rin
Music, Music festivals

Laneway Festival

The Domain, Sydney

This boutique one-day music festival returns to Sydney with a heap of local and international musicians under its wing. The 1975, Charli XCX, Ruel, Earl Sweatshirt and Ocean Alley lead the line-up. Tones and I also makes an appearance after placing high in the Hottest 100 with her hit 'Dance Monkey'.

2
Lunar New Year cocktail specials at the Push
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do, Fairs and festivals

Lunar New Year at The Rocks

Around The Rocks, The Rocks

[Sponsored] Lunar New Year at The Rocks is an astronomical 23-day Lunar New Year event, with a little something for everyone from families to foodies. Check out the traditional red lanterns (for good luck), a pop-up market, lion dancing and the Lunar Lanterns display of glowing zodiac animal sculptures. 

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3
Food at Bopp & Tone Restaurant
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Things to do, Food and drink

Bopp and Tone Bushfire Benefit

Bopp and Tone, Sydney

This bushfire benefit at a handsome CBD bar and eatery features a specially curated shared feast, live music, free-flowing cocktails, beers and wines, and a raffle and silent auction with some pretty swanky prizes. Tickets are $150 and all profits will be shared with charities supporting bushfire relief. 

4
Supplied CNY Lunar Lanterns - Rabbit
Photograph: Damian Shaw
Things to do, Fairs and festivals

Lunar Lanterns

Circular Quay, Circular Quay

Visit Circular Quay to see giant animal lanterns representing the creatures of the zodiac dotted around the harbour. Each one has been designed by an Asian-Australian artist, measures up to 13 metres in height and is best seen after dusk when lit up in full, vibrant colour. 

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5
Grand Finale // Hofesh Shechter
Rahi Rezvani
Dance

Grand Finale

Sydney Opera House, Sydney
5 out of 5 stars

We gave five-stars to this show from the London-based Hofesh Schechter Company when it came down under for Melbourne Festival – so we're very excited that it's come to Sydney for a short season. This distinctly urban dance work explores youth and the power of the young. 

6
People jumping on jumping castle at Big Bounce Australia
Things to do, Pop-up locations

The Big Bounce Australia

St Ives Showground, St Ives

Escape into a colourful bouncy kingdom. This inflatable theme park includes the Guiness World Record-certified largest ever bounce house, which has giant slides, climbing towers, obstacle runs, basketball hoops and ball pits sprawled across 1,500 square metres of bouncy real estate. 

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7
Cocktail at Prince of York
Photograph: Katje Ford
Things to do, Food and drink

Pamela’s presents: In Residence x Romeo Lane

Prince of York, Sydney

Prince of York is beginning the year with a bang. The CBD party palace, and Best New Bar award nominee at Time Out Sydney’s 2020 Bar Awards, is launching ‘In Residence’, a series of one-night-only collaborations with inspiring legends in Australia’s arts and hospitality scenes – and they’re kicking things off with a cracker courtesy of Romeo Lane’s Joe Jones.

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Fiona Foley 2020 National Art School
Fiona Foley, 'HHH #1', 2004
Art

Fiona Foley: Who Are These Strangers and Where Are They Going?

National Art School, Darlinghurst

Badtjala artist Dr Fiona Foley is known for her photographic works dismantling historical stereotypes, such 2004’s HHH (Hedonistic Honky Haters), which featured a portrait of African Americans wearing black KKK-style hoods and African-print garments. Now, as part of Sydney Festival, the National Art School hosts a new, free survey exhibition of her work.

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9
Three cheese mac'n'cheese at the Fernery
Photograph: Madeleine Ryan / Papaya
Things to do, Fairs and festivals

Mosman Melted Cheese Festival

The Fernery, Mosman

Your new year's fitness ambitions unfortunately aren’t likely to survive much longer, as a festival dedicated to drool-worthy melted cheese is simmering onto a Mosman rooftop garden eatery for February. There'll be a limited-edition menu heroing all things fromage, from gut-bustingly rich snacks to dreamy desserts, and cheese-drenched mains.

10
ragon Boat Races, Darling Harbour
Photograph: Damian Shaw
Sport and fitness, Sailing and rowing

Lunar Festival Dragon Boat Races

Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour

One of the highlights of Sydney's Lunar New Year festival is the annual two-day series of dragon boat races in Darling Harbour, which draws thousands of spectators. Paddlers race in ornately designed boats carved with the head and tail of a dragon.

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11
Fatboy Slim press shot
Photograph: Supplied
Music, Pop

Fatboy Slim

Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney Olympic Park

Fact: it is physically impossible to hear ‘Weapon of Choice’ without starting to dance like Christopher Walken. Sydneysiders will have the opportunity to do that (as well as enjoy other A-grade bangers) when the top-dog British DJ, credited for helping make the big beat genre popular in the mainstream, comes to Sydney this Friday for a hot summer show at Sydney Olympic Park. 

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Bran Nue Dae supplied 2020 Opera Australia
Photograph: Damian Kelly
Theatre, Musicals

Bran Nue Dae

Riverside Theatres, Parramatta

Acknowledged as the world’s first Aboriginal musical, Bran Nue Dae was written by Jimmy Chi and debuted to ecstatic reviews in 1990, and quickly became a hit with audiences who were taken on a ride back in time to Broome in the late ‘60s. It's landmark work of Aussie musical theatre that's a must-see.

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Carmen Opera Australia 2018 hero image supplied
Photograph: Supplied
Music, Classical and opera

Carmen

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Italian mezzo-soprano Veronica Simeoni is making her Opera Australia debut in this fast-paced and brightly colourful production from director John Bell, Australia's godfather of Shakespeare. It also features eclectic choreography by Kelley Abbey that picks up on the rhythms of the score and even incorporates break-dancing. 

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My Neighbour Totoro
Studio Ghibli
Film, Family

Studio Ghibli Summer Festival

Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Japan Supernatural is wowing crowds at the AGNSW, but it just wouldn't be a complete exhibition on fantastical visions from Japan without some Studio Ghibli. On Saturday, February 1, catch the adorable Kiki's Delivery Service and on Saturday, February 8, there's the darker Princess Mononoke.

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15
Profile of punk rocker Billy Idol.
Photograph: Michael Muller
Music, Rock and indie

Billy Idol

Hordern Pavilion, Moore Park

The not at all idle Billy Idol will be firing up stages at a series of headline shows around Australia. We saw Idol bring his four decades of experience (yep, rock’n’roll’s loveable scamp is 63 years old) to the country in 2015, but it seems Australian fans have cried ‘more, more, more’. Well, this weekend, they're getting it.

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Six the Musical Sydney Opera House 2019 supplied
Photograph: Idil Sukan
Theatre, Musicals

Six the Musical

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Much like Hamilton before it, this West End pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, telling the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. It's basically a hilarious pop concert in which the wives compete to determine who had the worst time with old mate Henry.

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17
Sydney skyline in the background of an outdoor cinema
Photograph: Supplied
Film, Outdoor cinema

Mov'in Bed Outdoor Bed Cinema

The Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park

[Sponsored] There's so many open air cinemas around town this summer that we've rounded up the best outdoor cinemas in Sydney. However when it comes to the most unique (and the cosiest), crawling under the blankets with a glass of wine at Mov'in Bed takes the cake. 

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Shrek the Musical 2019 supplied image
Photograph: Helen Maybanks
Theatre, Musicals

Shrek the Musical

Sydney Lyric, Darling Harbour

The Dreamworks movie, upon which this musical is based, perfectly nailed its comedic tone, playing confidently to youngsters as well as grown-ups, and satirising the style of fairytale animation popularised by Disney. The stage version aims for similar and has enough razzle dazzle and good gags to keep you entertained.

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Romeo and Juliet Sport for Jove 2019 supplied
Photograph: Patrick Boland
Theatre, Drama

Romeo and Juliet

Old Government House, Parramatta

From #eggboy to Greta Thunberg, 2019 is the year young people spoke up and refused to be overlooked. The greatest love story ever told gets a rethink this summer at Shakespeare specialist theatre company Sport for Jove’s outdoor season, as director Damien Ryan puts teenagers where they should be – at the heart of the story.

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Twilight at Taronga
Photograph: Maclay Heroit
Music, Music festivals

Twilight at Taronga

Taronga Zoo, Mosman

The Twilight at Taronga concert series has been bringing a little bit of summer sunset music festival sparkle to Sydney for 25 years. The annual gig experience ticks off a hefty amount of Sydney in summer ideals. Add in the ’90s-Aussie-rock-legends meets Triple-J-gold of the diverse line-ups, and you've got yourself a pretty bloody great way to spend a waterfront evening.

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21
Leah Flanagan appears in front of the Badu Gili Live projections
Photograph: Sydney Opera House/Ken Leanfore
Music

Badu Gili Live

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

For the first time this summer, the vibrant visuals of First Nations artwork Badu Gili will also be paired with live music performances. These free sunset gigs – Badu Gili Live – will showcase First Nations musicians on the Opera House’s monumental steps, with the light installations providing a dynamic backdrop.

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Dog Trumpet
Photograph: Supplied
Music, Rock and indie

Grass Roots: A Helping Hand for the Fire Crisis

Marrickville Bowling Club, Marrickville

Rock Against Racism Australia has joined forces with Turbo Nun Entertainment Group for this concert-for-a-cause. Heading up the bill are Dog Trumpet, comprising brothers (and Mental as Anything alumni) Reg Mombassa and Peter O'Doherty, along with two-thirds of veteran pub rock band the Johnnys, nine-piece R&B act the Fever Pitch, surf rockers Los Monaros, and more.

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23
Person cooking at Chinatown Night Market
Shopping, Markets

Chinatown Night Market

Dixon Street Plaza, Haymarket

Every Friday from 4pm, the main strip of Chinatown along Dixon Street transforms into a vibrant night market selling Asian street food, desserts and gifts. It attracts a wide mix of visitors, from tourists and homesick international students to the post-work crowd, who you’ll find wisely padding their stomachs with cumin lamb skewers before hitting the next bar.

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Matisse & Picasso National Gallery of Australia 2019 supplied
© Succession H. Matisse/Copyright Agency & © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency
Art

Matisse & Picasso

National Gallery of Australia,

Matisse & Picasso traces one of the most compelling and turbulent friendships in modern art history, with more than 200 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, books and costumes from 40 international collections. Both artists felt the other was their only true competition, and throughout their lives, each used the other to spur them on to greater creative heights.

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25
Japan Supernatural AGNSW 2019
Photograph: Courtesy Art Gallery of NSW
Art

Japan Supernatural

Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

This summer it's all about Japan at AGNSW with an epic exhibition of more than 200 artworks from artists past and present. Japan Supernatural features work from the country's most influential artist, Katsushika Hokusai, plus pieces from Takashi Murakami, who'll show a massive supernatural installation in the gallery.

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Quilty AGNSW 2019 supplied
Image courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of NSW
Art, Paintings

Quilty

Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Ben Quilty's work is known across the country for its vivid, luscious and tormented quality, all realised in oils. This exhibition is Quilty's first major survey in more than a decade and covers 15 years of his work, ranging from his portraits through to more abstract pieces and reflections on the Australian landscape.

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Jumaadi: My Love is in an Island Far Away Mosman Art Gallery supplied 2019
Photograph: Katrina Cashman
Art

Jumaadi: My Love is in an Island Far Away

Mosman Art Gallery, Mosman

The long and often fraught relationship between Australia and Indonesia is at the heart of this new exhibition by internationally acclaimed Javanese artist Jumaadi. Drawing inspiration from Cintaku Jauh di Pulau, an epic poem by Indonesian writer Chairil Anwar, Jumaadi juxtaposes it against the brutal treatment of Javanese political prisoners during the 20th century.

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A person pours their own drink from from a row of colourful self-serve drink machines.
Photograph: Jasper Ave
Things to do, Food and drink

Frozé Your Way

Untied, Barangaroo

You can go DIY with the wine world’s adult slushie at this self-service frozé station popping up at Barangaroo’s tropical rooftop bar, Untied. The aptly named ‘Frozé Your Way’ bar allows you to to choose from six fruity flavours, plus a pick’n’mix of fresh and dried fruits and nostalgic lollies to garnish your beverage. 

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29
Liverpool Sculpture Walk 2019 supplied
Photograph: Charlotte Curd
Art, Sculpture and installations

Liverpool Sculpture Walk

Casula Parklands Playground, Casula

For two weeks every spring, hordes of Sydneysiders head to the beach for the annual Sculpture by the Sea. But for nine months, Casula Parklands is playing host to a new sculpture walk, featuring eight works from Sculpture by the Sea along the banks of the Georges River.

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at Bondi Farmers Markets
Shopping, Markets

Bondi Farmers Markets

Bondi Beach Public School, Bondi Beach

Bar Pho has been a staple of the weekly produce and snack fare for the past eight years, and the warming basil, beef and star anise-spiked stock makes a solid argument for passing on the usual bacon and egg breakfast. This stall along with Fritter Houseand the Raclette Shack make the markets an excellent brunching destination. 

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31
People sitting at tables on Cockatoo Island with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.
Photograph: Supplied / Harbour Trust
Music

Sunset Sessions at Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island, Sydney

Jump on the ferry to Cockatoo Island for a night of chilled acoustic performances with a banging city backdrop. Sunset Sessions – previously known as Campfire Sessions – will share intimate songs and stories from up-and-coming artists on the island lawn on Saturday evenings until March. 

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Linear exhibition
Art, Installation

Linear

Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

Explore Indigenous connection to cultural legacy and the physical, cultural and spiritual lines that link First Nations practices and narratives across Australia. Linear is curated by the award-winning head of design at Bangarra Dance Theatre, Murri man Jacob Nash, and features ten Indigeous practitioners from across the country, working in diverse artistic mediums.

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33
A wide shot of the crowd sitting down in front of the large scre
Photograph: Moonlight Cinema
Film, Outdoor cinema

Moonlight Cinema

Centennial Parklands, Centennial Park

Pack your picnic baskets, because Sydney’s favourite outdoor cinema experience is returning to Centennial Park this weekend. Moonlight Cinema promises an eclectic program of current films and classic favourites for filmgoers to enjoy when the sun goes down right through to March.

34
Cheese at at stall at the Flour Mill Markets Summer Hill.
Photograph: Supplied
Shopping, Markets

Flour Mill Markets

Flour Mill Summer Hill, Summer Hill

There’s a new sustainable, environmentally-focused market joining the mix of Sydney’s regular shopping events. The Flour Mill Markets features fresh produce, dairy-based goods, colourful blooms, locally crafted pottery and other fun trinkets. 

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35
Cornelia Parker Museum of Contemporary Art 2019
Photograph: Hugo Glendinning
Art

Cornelia Parker

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

Cornelia Parker is considered one of England's biggest and most influential art stars from the last few decades and was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. See the exploded garden shed in her breakthrough work from 1991, 'Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View', at the MCA.

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Tour guide showing visitors a blue swimmer crab
Photograph: Supplied
Things to do, Walks and tours

Sydney Fish Market Behind the Scenes Tour

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont

If you want to catch fishermen at work, you’ve got to get up early. Sydney Fish Market runs almost-daily tours that start at 6.40am. Learn fascinating facts about our fave fish market, like how it's now considered the second most diverse seafood market in the world after Tokyo’s markets.

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Sydney Opera House Tour
Photograph: Jamie Williams
Things to do, Walks and tours

Sydney Opera House Tour

Sydney Opera House, Sydney

It’s a rare chance that you’ll have the opportunity to explore a completely empty Opera House theatre. On this tour, you’ll be able to visit all of the main theatres (dependant on if there are shows on) – from the majestic Concert Hall to the quaint Drama Theatre and, if you’re lucky, get a sneak peek of a rehearsal.

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Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee
Photograph: Hugh Stewart
Things to do, Exhibitions

Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson: Step Into Paradise

Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

In 1973, the Sydney Opera House opened and our city was making headlines around the world. But in the Strand arcade, another cultural revolution was happening: Jenny Kee opened her Flamingo Park Frock Salon. Her creative partnership with Linda Jackson is being celebrated in this major survey.

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39
Guan Wei  MCA
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Art

Guan Wei

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

Beijing-born Guan Wei is one of the most provocative and distinctive artists making work in Australia today, about both China and his adopted homeland, and the connection between the two nations. The Museum of Contemporary Art is putting some of his most memorable pieces on display in a new exhibition.

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Primavera MCA 2019 supplied
Zoe M. Robertson, 'Various Protest Banners', 2018
Art, Galleries

Primavera

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

Each year, the MCA invites an artist or curator to take the reins of Primavera, an exhibition for emerging artists under 35. This year, the exhibition is curated by Archibald Prize-winning painter Mitch Cairns, who has brought together seven artists who all incorporate language forms and poetic expression in their practice. 

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41
People shopping at Manly Market Place
Shopping, Markets

Manly Markets

Sydney Road, Manly

Off the main drag, but still central enough to attract the tourists, Manly’s weekend markets brings together organic food stalls with souvenir sellers that makes for an easy one-stop-shop for a bite to eat and a quick browse before you hit the beach.

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Stalls at Paddington Markets
Shopping, Markets

Paddington Markets

Paddington Uniting Church, Paddington

Every Saturday, more than 100 stalls line the grounds of Paddington Uniting Church and the neighbouring public school selling Australian-made fashion, handmade crockery and metal costume jewellery. The market has been operating on the same day since 1973, and the all-weather event is a profitable fundraiser for the church.

More amazing things to do in Sydney

Person serving food at Kitchen by Mike
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Restaurants, Cafés

The best new restaurants in Sydney right now

If you love food and live in Sydney, your 'must-try' list of new restaurants, cafés and bars probably takes up your phone's entire storage capacity by now. Luckily, we've put together a curated list of the newest, hottest and coolest restaurants our critics are raving about. 

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A smoking cocktail
Photograph: Anna Kucera
Bars, Cocktail bars

The 50 best bars in Sydney right now

Here is Sydney viewed through the bottom of a glass: from its world-beating cocktail lounges to its down-and-divey saloons. These bars represent the pinnacle of Melbourne drinking.

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SOCIAL MEDIA - 1:1 Summer in Sydney
Photograph: Filippo Rivetti/Destination NSW
Travel, Short getaways

The best day trips from Sydney

Escape the city for a day by pointing your compass in the direction of one of these nearby towns, regional escapes or beautiful bush walks.

People drinking coffee at Carriageworks Farmers Markets
Photograph: Daniel Boud
Shopping, Markets

The best markets in Sydney

Borrow your nanna's tartan shopping trolley and venture out to one of Sydney's best markets for farm-fresh produce, designer homewares, vintage fashions and tasty street food.

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Culture Scouts tour Sydney
Photograph: Emma Joyce
Things to do, Walks and tours

The best tours in Sydney

We’ve tried and tested Sydney’s best tours – from seaside foraging trails to urban graffiti walks – to bring you a list of tour operators who’ll help you discover the hidden gems of this city, whether you’re local or here to soak up the view.

Kids playing with the chickens at Rouse Hill House & Farm
Photograph: James Horan
Kids, Active events

The best activities for kids in Sydney

Looking for ways to entertain the little ones? Here’s a list of what’s on in Sydney for kids and families, from children’s theatre shows to sports camps and events in the school holidays. 

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